Apple + Light Peak = Early 2011


Light Peak is now on track to appear in products in the first half of 2011–and likely earlier in the year than later, according to an industry source familiar with the progress of the technology. Light Peak is significantly faster than even USB 3.0, carrying data at 10 gigabits per second in both directions simultaneously.

10Gbps. Now that’s fast. So how fast is USB 3.0? 4.8Gbps. And USB 2.0? 480Mbps. Simply put Light Peak is about double the speed of USB 3.0 and more than twenty times faster than USB 2.0. Why would we need something so fast?

That speed is interesting. Current maximum network speeds normal folks have access to is 1Gbps, or Gigabit Ethernet. In enterprise settings 10 Gigabit Ethernet is being implemented. Is 10GE coming to consumers in 2011? Probably. And if Apple brings out Light Peak-equipped Macs that can make 100% use of that fat Ethernet connection… now that would be very elegant, wouldn’t it? Let me explain.

Let’s say you just recorded a 1080/30p HD wedding video with your latest and greatest HD-enabled digital camera. Let’s also assume that its 12.5GB (gigabyte) and your digital camera as well as your Apple computer are Light Peak-equipped. Let’s figure out how fast we can transfer that 12.5GB video using Light Peak to your Mac. The speed of Light Peak is 10Gbps (gigabit per second) and in bytes (8 bits in 1 byte) that comes out to (10 divided by 8) 1.25GB per second. So to transfer 12.5GB to your Mac it only takes 10 seconds.*

With a 10 Gigabit Ethernet network, transferring to your multimedia server or storage device that same video would also take just 10 seconds. But here’s an interesting thought: if Light Peak and 10 Gigabit Ethernet were to become standard, there would be no difference in speed between stuff that’s stored locally (external hard drive) and on the local network. If we got to 1Gbps Internet connections there would be no difference between local storage, network storage or cloud storage.

* This is assuming internal storage in the Mac can handle 1.25GB per second. This is not possible today on a typical Mac with even the fastest SSDs, which are limited to about 300MB per second. PCI-Express SSD speeds also top out around 750MB per second. We would need to move away from these interconnects; maybe the answer is Light Peak.